Did you know that . . .
Child labor was not always seen as a problem ? Many parents thought children were better off working than wasting time in school, especially high school.
Boys and girls aged 7 to 12 helped launch the Industrial Revolution? In 1790, they were the first employees at Samuel Slater’s textile mill in Pawtucket, R.I.
In the early 1800s factory workers were as a young as 7 years old ? In fact 1 out of 3 factory workers was between 7 and 12 years old.
In 1836, Massachusetts was the first state to pass a law ensuring that workers under age 15 went to school for at least 3 months a year ? However the law was rarely enforced. In those days birth certificates were rarely issued, so there was no way to prove a child worker's age. (Read this 1880 report for examples.)
By 1853 several states had limited the work day to 10 hours for children under age 12? That didn’t leave much time for anything else, though.
In the 1890s 1 out of five kids aged 10 to 16 worked for a living? And 1 out of every 15 workers was between 10 and 15 years old? Employers liked young workers because they were cheaper to hire than adults and they could handle small parts and tools more easily than adults could.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, children worked so mothers could take care of the family at home?
In 1900 teenagers were more likely to go to work than than go to high school? Only 6 out of 100 seventeen-year olds earned a high-school diploma that year.
Ten years later things hadn’t changed much. Fifteen out of 100 teenage youth enrolled in high school – but most of them left before senior year.
In 1904 adult males in Pennsylvania earned an average of $485.11 a year, adult females $345.44, and minors $143. 64? Child labor was a real bargain!
In 1908 an estimated 1 out of every 4 mine workers was a boy aged 7-16?
In 1910 2 million kids under age 15 worked in industrial jobs – in glass factories, coal mines, textile mills, and clothing factories?
In 1916 the United States Congress passed a law that set age 14 as the minimum working age? Two years later the law was overturned. In fact, it took until 1938 to set 16 as the minimum age for workers in nonhazardous industries.
Working children contributed all – or at least most – of their earnings to their parents? Between 1917 and 1919, for instance, working children contributed an average of 23 percent of their family's income.